Because California is a no-fault divorce state, either you or your spouse can decide to dissolve the marriage at any time, for any reason or for no reason. Your spouse does not need to gain your consent to petition for divorce, nor does he or she necessarily even need to inform you about it beforehand. At the Law Office of Stephen W. Penn and Associates, we understand that it likely comes as a shock to receive an unexpected petition of divorce from your spouse, and you may not know what to do about it. According to FindLaw, the petition demands an answer as soon as possible, and you run the risk of losing your rights to property and child custody if you fail to comply.
The divorce petition includes proposals and statements regarding the marriage and the spouses involved. Proposals can include requests for spousal support, property division or child custody. The court does not afford you much time to respond to a divorce petition, usually no more than 30 days. If you fail to respond within the allotted timeframe, the court will enter a default in the case. A default means that you had the opportunity to respond to the petition, and because you did not do so, you forfeit the right to argue any part of the divorce. The assumption of the court is that by not answering the petition, you express your agreement to all the terms your spouse has set forth.
Fortunately, California makes it fairly easy to answer a divorce petition with a preprinted form that allows you to check a box marked either "denied" or "admitted" to indicate whether you agree or disagree with the information contained in your spouse's petition. If an answer requires further explanation, or if you would like to counter with your own demands, the form provides you space in which to do so.
It is difficult to receive a divorce petition, but ignoring it will not help you. Instead, it is likely to make matters worse. More information about divorce is available on our website.